Police arrest UK suspect in anti-ID theft operation

Update: Operation Firewall has resulted in the arrest of a man in Surrey on suspicion of belonging to a global network of identify thieves

A nineteen year-old man from Camberley, Surrey, was bailed on Wednesday night pending further enquiries after police arrested him for suspected involvement in an identity theft network.

The National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), which was part of a joint operation with the US Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies, made the arrest on Wednesday. The man is set to appear in front of police on December 8th.

"[The group] compromised bank accounts from hacking, phishing and other means of fraud," said a spokeswoman from the NHTCU. "They traded usernames, passwords, botnets and traveller identification documents."

At the time of the arrest, police recovered forged ID documents and computer equipment, the Unit said. The arrest was part of an international crackdown on international identity fraud called Operation Firewall, which was lead by the US Secret Service.

In an emailed statement from the NHTCU, a spokeswoman for the organisation said: "Beginning in early 2004, data obtained through court authorized intercepts revealed internal communications, transactions and practices of the previously identified groups and other criminal organizations.  The amount of information gathered during the investigation is approximately two terabytes – the equivalent of an entire university’s academic library."

Police investigated online forums, which led them to arrest 28 suspects and discover a Bulgarian passport forging facility.

The US Department of Justice, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Europol among other agencies took part in the operation. Arrests were made in the US and six other countries on charges of identity theft, computer fraud, credit card fraud and conspiracy.

Police said that the group had stolen more than 1.7 million credit card numbers and other financial information costing more than $4.3m.